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Dear Dagen to Dear Santa: All I Want for Christmas

Some snakeskin shoes, a laptop and, oh yeah, a more consumer-friendly funds industry.

Dear Santa,

First, I promise that I've been really good this year.

Share your holiday list and your fund questions on the

Dear Dagen board

As I'm sure you already know, I want the usual loot for Christmas: season tickets to the

Roundabout Theatre Company

, a pair of

Jimmy Choo

heels (in snakeskin if possible), a laptop and a trip to the

Sundance Film Festival


I've also got some requests of a financial nature.

Not cash. Just a few improvements to the mutual fund industry.

I would ask the firms directly, but I think your response time is better.

1. Make mutual funds available through nonfinancial sites on the Internet.

I'd much rather spend my time rummaging through

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site than slogging through any mutual fund company's online marketing drivel.

The solution: A host of general-interest consumer sites should start selling mutual funds and other investment products., for example, pushed the price of books down dramatically. Imagine what it could do to sales loads.

Just think of the investment tools that these online aggregators could conceive.

2. Make Vanguard, E*Trade


and other firms open real-world offices in a few of the largest cities.

I'm a big believer in the Internet and spend practically all day online. But there are rare moments when I need or want to consult a human being.

When it comes to making important investment decisions, I would rather talk to someone face to face. However, I am not willing to hire a full-fledged broker.

Vanguard already operates investment education centers in Malvern, Pa., Charlotte, N.C., and Scottsdale, Ariz. -- three cities where the fund company has corporate offices.

Vanguard doesn't have plans to open any more centers, says a spokesman. It costs more to do business with a person than over the telephone or online. And keeping costs low is Vanguard's mission.

Would a couple of well-trained advisers, a few potted plants and some industrial carpeting really cost that much?

3. Make a few big mutual fund companies launch Internet funds.

I would feel a lot more secure knowing that a couple of the largest fund firms were running Internet funds.

Surely, the Internet will continue as a major area of growth. Moving forward, I'd like to see a major player use its well-known, long-term investment approach to pick stocks in this area.

Goldman Sachs

launched its

Internet Tollkeeper

fund recently. Still, I want more.

The Internet is risky enough. I don't want to worry about the identity and background of the company handling my investment.

4. Make some of those multibillion-dollar funds close to new investors.

I would like to see any fund with more than $20 billion in assets close to new investors. Even with large-cap funds, it's utterly preposterous to keep a fund that large open to new investments.

It's called greed, not prudence.


(FMAGX) - Get Fidelity Magellan Report

Magellan fund,

(FGRIX) - Get Fidelity Growth & Income Port Report

Growth & Income fund and

(FCNTX) - Get Fidelity Contrafund Report

Contrafund are closed, but the fund firm still has a few giants that need shuttering, including

(FBGRX) - Get Fidelity Blue Chip Growth Report

Blue Chip Growth, which is tipping the scales at $25 billion.



Janus fund is another one that needs to get taken out.

Even then, these firms would still be able to rake in the dollars by continuing to accept money from all those retirement plans.

5. Make mutual fund companies use some creativity when devising their advertising campaigns.

Fund companies seem to be spending millions of dollars trying to lure investors into their products, running ads that make


commercials feel like



If we can't be informed by these fund commercials, then at least we'll be entertained. Fidelity used to play that funky

Chambers Brothers'

tune in its ads. I would be happy to hear that again.

I just don't want to hear sycophantic testimonials from existing customers.



needs a night job.

6. Make fund firms offer decreasing fees for those who invest for more than five years.

If fund companies really believe we should invest for the long term, they can reduce the fees on their funds for long-term investors.

I want to see a sliding fee scale that automatically reduces an investor's annual expense ratio after, say, five years of ownership.

If a fund company wants you to stay, it should give you a reason -- in addition to decent performance.

Santa, I know you won't be able to grant all my wishes. I'll settle for just one.

See you next month,


Send your questions and comments to Santa, you can email Dagen directly at

Dear Dagen aims to provide general fund information. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell funds or other securities.